Synopsis: Set in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame, a group of vigilantes known informally as The Boys set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty.
Review: One of the wonderful things about comic books these days is the sheer abandon that some writers and artists are able to utilize to push the envelope and boundaries of the genre. Names like Neil Gaiman, Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, and Garth Ennis have been creating adult-oriented stories for decades which fly in the face of what you usually see from Marvel and DC. But, when the time has come to adapt these stories, the results have been a mixed bag. For every KICK-ASS and KINGSMAN, we have shows like Preacher. While the AMC series has improved significantly since the underwhelming first season, it still pales compared to the iconic source material. The highly anticipated adaptation of Garth Ennis’ The Boys unfortunately fails to capture the energy of the titular comic book despite some moments of great potential. This is a series that should have been so much better but ends up falling very short.
Developed by Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Preacher), The Boys presents itself as a pitch black comedy that circumvents the cliches of superhero stories by showing that they are really self-centered assholes. Not GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY assholes, but real pieces of shit. Our gateway into this world is Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), an average guy who finds himself recruited by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) to join The Boys in their fight against the Justice League/Avengers-like The Seven. We also follow Erin Moriarty as The Seven’s latest recruit, Starlight, as she sees the true nature of the team that the world idolizes. As the storylines converge, The Boys never wastes an opportunity to remind us that while these characters may look like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or The Flash, they are not.
It would be easy to draw comparisons between The Boys and Watchmen, but I found that the show comes off more like the comedy superhero movie MYSTERY MEN if it were directed by Zack Snyder. Oh, and not funny. Sure, there were several moments where I chuckled during The Boys but nothing that was truly funny enough for me to feel moved at all. In may ways, this series reminded me of far superior adult-oriented comic book adaptations like KICK-ASS or KINGSMAN which are able to be playful in their darkness while stll remaining very cinematic. The Boys tends to slow down and speed up so often that it is hard to really gauge what the creative team was going for.
The Boys aims to hit all of the right notes. It is full of hip songs, old and new, as well as some very cinematic moments. It is vulgar, violent, crude, and doesn’t pull any punches. But, if you have read the source material, you will find that this version pales in comparison. There are, of course, things you can get away with on the illustrated page that would never fly in a live action production, but countless moments in this series just look cheaper than they should. Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) absolutely knows how to work within the confines of a budget, but most of The Boys doesn’t look all that much better than Amazon Prime’s other superhero series, The Tick.
As you can tell from the trailers, Karl Urban is perfectly cast as Billy Butcher. Letting his native accent run free, Butcher is a fun character and one I would not have minded seeing a lot more of. This series works brilliantly when it focuses on Hughie and Billy trying to take down The Seven. When the series shifts to the superhero characters, it loses some of it’s charm. Their costumes alone look cut-rate and make this series feel more like a spoof than it should be. Even the early episodes in the season cannot decide if they want to drop us into the middle of this world and pick up context along the way or force feed us exposition about these corporate-backed crusaders of justice.
The Boys is a dark look at what superheroes could be when looked at through a cynical lens but never captures what made the comic book so good. Like Preacher, The Boys squanders brilliant source material with a lackluster on screen adaptation. A friend and fan of the comic was wary of the series and said that it was unfilmable and maybe he was right. The Boys is too bland to be destination viewing and too niche for wide audiences. It will potentially garner a second season but I don’t see any reason to keep up with this show if it will just be more of the same. The Boys wastes a great cast and a great concept with poor execution and uneven pacing.
The Boys premieres July 26th on Amazon Prime.